What is sādhanā ?

As mentioned before, one can do sādhanā of many different subjects. But the ultimate goal is one and the same: the experience of Truth, which occurs in a mindless condition. The three most direct paths to reach a mindless condition are yoga, music, and Tantra. It is important to understand that there is not one single path or sādhanā that everyone can do. Each person is unique and so their path is unique, but there are similar experiences that sādhak share as they move towards a common goal.

What is sādhanā ?

The word sādhanā comes from the word sādhya, which means “to achieve” or “to aim or focus”. Any intense practice that is done with 100% focus is called sādhanā.
Sādhanā is a long path. To do sādhanā, one requires great patience. sādhanā can be done in any subject, be it music, yoga, archery or any other practical art. The goal of sādhanā is to become one with the subject, to reach a point where there is no distinction between the subject practiced and the practitioner. For this, you have to focus all your energy on the subject in order to achieve mastery.
To become one with the subject, one must go to the bīj or “seed” of the subject, from where it emerges.
The bīj of the subject is the purest state of the subject, its root. For example, in music, the root of any instrument is pure sound or in the language of Vedānta – Ōṃ (Aum). From there, everything that is called “music” emerges. Like the beej of any other subject, the bīj of music – pure sound – can be called by many names: Truth, Ultimate Reality, Existence, etc. Thus, if one goes to the root of any subject through sādhanā, one experiences ultimate knowledge or Truth. So we can also say that the highest goal of sādhanā is to experience Truth. The subject is the medium, and gaining mastery over it is the practical outcome. The sādhanā or intense practice of a subject takes the sādhak or practitioner from the material level to higher spiritual levels, where he can ultimately go to the subject’s root and experience Truth.
Truth is not something that can be taught. It is something that must be experienced or self-realized. Unfortunately, in today’s society, the education practice is such that we are given ready-made information that we have to accept rather than discovering it through our own understanding. It is a system that creates more believers than seekers.
Truth needs no belief; Truth is being. It is eternal – śāśwata. Even if Truth itself comes to you and tells you to believe, you must not believe. Because that belief will make that Truth a lie. Truth itself is not a lie, but your belief of it without experience is wrong. Truth never creates beliefs. Truth is Truth. When you have any experience, your belief turns into knowledge and that is Truth.
What are the obstacles that come in the way of experiencing Truth? The biggest obstacle is your mind. Everything – your beliefs, ideas, concepts, thoughts and information – are all the clouds that conceal the Truth from you. Until you disconnect from these things, you cannot experience Truth, as it can only be experienced in the absence of the conscious mind. It is through sādhanā that one can reach a “mindless” condition.
As mentioned before, one can do sādhanā of many different subjects. But the ultimate goal is one and the same: the experience of Truth, which occurs in a mindless condition. The three most direct paths to reach a mindless condition are yoga, music, and Tantra. It is important to understand that there is not one single path or sādhanā that everyone can do. Each person is unique and so their path is unique, but there are similar experiences that sādhak share as they move towards a common goal.

(r̥ṇa) Ruṇa Muktī – A Beautiful Concept

(r̥ṇa) Ruṇa Muktī - A Beautiful Concept

In Indian culture, the concept of indebtedness or obligation plays an important role. All humans are obliged to God, children are obliged to their parents, and students are indebted to their teachers.
In the Gurū- śiśya paramparā*, it is a student’s right to learn and the teacher’s right to teach, but the student is always obliged to the teacher. In the true form of Gurū- śiśya paramparā, there is complete surrender on the part of the student, and this allows for the teacher to do their best work. A good analogy is that of a diamond. A student is like a raw diamond, completely in the hands of a diamond cutter (the teacher). If the diamond yields to the cutter completely, then the cutter can do his best job in bringing out the true beauty of the gem through his careful cutting and polishing. In the Gurū- śiśya paramparā, everything is left in the hands of the able Gurū. He is the creator. This creates an enormous obligation for the student – how is the student to repay the teacher? Each student does what they can. Some give money, others do seva, etc, but in Indian culture, this is not enough to relieve oneself of the obligation towards one’s teacher.
That is where the concept of r̥ṇa muktī comes in. r̥ṇa muktī literally means “liberation or release from obligation (or r̥ṇa )”. There are two ways of r̥ṇa muktī. The first, if your Gurū feels that you are capable, is to teach 1000 students what your Gurū has taught you. The second is to go one step further than your Gurū in that vidyā.
*When I speak of Gurū- śiśya paramparā and r̥ṇa muktī , I am referring to serious students who have spent many years of very close contact and training with their gurū.

Candlelight Practice (Jyoti riyāz)

Candlelight Practice (Jyoti riyāz)

In olden times, many ustads and pandits used to do candlelight practice, also known as jyoti riyāz

Two major concepts should be kept in mind when doing candlelight practice:

1) You must play one composition until the candle burns out
2) You must stare into the flame jyoti while practicing

Candlelight practice should not be done at a very fast speed. It is better to take a Tāl versus a particular composition (e.g. Tīntāl or jhaptāl ṭhekā versus a kāydā).

It is also very important to have the Tānpurā drone and perfectly tuned tabla during candlelight practice.

Fire has four basic elements: heat, sound, light and darkness. This is why fire is worshiped in traditions around the world.

Staring into the fire is called Trāṭak. When playing a ṭhekā and doing this, after some time (after weeks in fact), one feels that the taal and the flame elements begin to merge and drive one into unknown areas. It’s a kind of experience that cannot be described in words.

Sometimes one feels that the sound of the theka disappears and reappears. Sometimes one feels that the flame appears and disappears. Sometimes one feels that both disappear and reappear. That is the time when you meet total emptiness – the gap where all secrets reside.

I strongly recommend anyone who has the desire to explore deep experiences through music to try this practice. You will not be disappointed.

Some thoughts on Kāydā and Palṭās

Whenever my mind is free, I think primarily about two things: experiences with my gurūs and experiences with my students. The truth is that what I learned from my gurūs was “half” learning. I fully learned what they had taught when I, in turn, taught it to my students. I may have taught a beginner kāydā like Dhā TeṬe, Dhā TeṬe more than a thousand times. This means I have learned Dhā TeṬe more than a thousand times. It is only through teaching the kāydā that I have truly digested the kāydā. The more I taught the kāydā, the more familiar with and attached to the composition I became. It has gone so deep in my soul that whenever I teach it, it comes out with a new form (palṭās or design). Every composition has its own mood and identity. To maintain the basics elements of the composition and create palṭās of the composition is the greatest fun.

Let me talk about Dhā TeṬe today.

Dhā TeṬe Dhā TeṬe Dhā Dhā TeṬe DhāGe Tinā Kinā/
Tā TeṬe Tā TeṬe Dhā Dhā TeṬe DhāGe Dhinā Genā

This composition is one of the famous compositions of Delhi Gharānā. This composition has existed for over 200 years in the field of music. In Hindustāni classical vocal, we have rāgas. We divide rāgas in three main scales: Oḍav-jāti, rāgas with five notes; Shāḍav-jāti, rāgas with six notes; and sampūrṇa-jāti, rāgas with all seven notes. In tablā compositions, they have maintained this concept. We, too, have compositions of five notes, six notes and seven notes. Dhā TeṬe is a composition of five notes – Dhā, TeṬe, DhāGe, Tinā, Kinā. These are the five major notes of this composition.

As I mentioned, this is a composition of Delhi Gharānā. The use of only the first two fingers is permitted. Almost all the compositions of Delhi Gharānā are played solely with the first two fingers. That is why Delhi Gharānā is also known as Do uṅgalīyo Kā Bāz, the Gharānā of Two Fingers. The most important thing in a kāydā is its palṭās or variations. Without disturbing the main composition’s form, by using the small changes, we create palṭās.

There is an interesting combination between technique and creativity. You can make hundreds of palṭās of each kāydā, but in performance, generally we play 7 to 15 palṭās of each composition (according to time limit and the nature of performance). The challenge is that every palṭā must have its own identity and we shouldn’t play palṭās that seem repetitive or very similar to others. With this challenge in mind, one has to take into consideration the balance between the bāyāṅ and dāyāṅ, the rules of the gharānā, and aesthetic values. From their variety of palṭās, we can assess the understanding and strength of the performer.